New Mexico Shouldn’t Double Down On Failed System of Child Abuse Reporting

OPINION 2020.08.11 Wexler New Mexico Shouldnt Double Down

child abuse: Nosy neighbor spying with binocularsLUCIEN FRAUD/SHUTTERSTOCK

Even as we finally come to grips with the racial bias that permeates so many aspects of American life, some people in New Mexico, as in much of the country, promote a narrative about child abuse and COVID-19 that is, at its core, riven with racial and class bias.

What are we really saying when we spread fear about how, supposedly, the moment mostly white middle-class professional “eyes” are taken off children who are overwhelmingly poor and disproportionately nonwhite, their parents will unleash savagery upon them? We’re saying that poor people and nonwhite people are too uncivilized to raise their own children without white professionals constantly spying on them.

It was bad enough when this fearmongering was promoted at the start of the pandemic. But now, major national news organizations, Bloomberg Citylab, The Marshall Project and the Associated Press have all found little evidence for such claims.

 Citylab reports that:

“Some parents living in neighborhoods with historically high rates of child welfare investigations say the dramatic dip in maltreatment reports [due to COVID-19] feels more like the pollution lifting — a much-needed respite from the intense and relentless surveillance of low-income moms, and especially those who are Black and Latinx. …”

That’s not as surprising as it may seem. Decades of horror stories have conditioned us to believe there is a child abuser under every bed. But of every 100 calls to child abuse hotlines nationwide, 91 are screened out as too absurd for investigation or, after investigation, found to be false. Another six cases involve neglect, which often means poverty. Multiple studies have found, for example, that 30% of America’s foster children could be home right now if their parents just had decent housing. The remaining cases are needles in a haystack. We’re not going to find the needles by constantly expanding the haystack. 

Domestic spies

On the contrary, as Children, Youth and Families Department spokesperson Charlie Moore-Pabst points out, now workers may well be doing a better job finding children in real danger because they have more time to investigate each case. 

child abuse: Richard Wexler (headshot), executive director of National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, smiling balding man with white-gray hair in black top.

Richard Wexler

So the last thing New Mexico’s vulnerable children need is constant exhortations to spy on neighbors and “training” for teachers to do the same. Recent research shows that our system of massive child abuse reporting overloads child welfare with false reports while discouraging families from seeking help for fear they’ll be reported to agencies such as CYFD. The child abuse surveillance state makes all children less safe.

If you were trying to cope with poverty and COVID-19, would you accept a food basket from someone who’s been instructed to spy on your family when he drops it off? Would you risk having a neighbor do a virtual visit with your children if you know they’re being urged to use the visit to look for so-called signs of child abuse?

At its worst, all this leads to more children needlessly consigned to the chaos of foster care. Precisely because most cases are nothing like the horror stories, study after study finds that in typical cases children left in their own homes typically do better even than comparably maltreated children placed in foster care. 

New Mexico already has an unfortunate history of over-reporting. As soon as New Mexico’s statewide hotline opened in 2011 it was deluged with false reports and CYFD begged people to stop. But they didn’t. Today, according to Searchlight New Mexico:

“We don’t want our agency to be used as a mean guard dog” to bully parents, said [State Central Intake] manager Paul Williams. “But I see it all day long.”

The hotline is plagued with false reports from school personnel seeking leverage in disputes with parents — yet now CYFD is “training” schools to “keep tabs on behavioral changes, the background environment and participation levels” in online schooling. But surely few things are more likely to change a child’s behavior than coping with a pandemic. And low “participation levels” often just mean a family is poor and has more difficulty getting online.

New Mexico also has an unfortunate present when it comes to racial bias and child welfare. ProPublica reports that one Albuquerque hospital “implemented a secretive policy in recent months to conduct special coronavirus screenings for pregnant women, based on whether they appeared to be Native American,” leading to needless separation of newborns from their mothers within the hospital.

America is now being challenged to rethink old assumptions about policing. In poor communities, child welfare agencies are seen not as benign helpers, but as what they really are: a police force. If we learn the right lessons from COVID-19 we can discard old, racist assumptions, lift the “pollution” of needless, stressful surveillance and replace it with a genuine safety net for vulnerable children.

Richard Wexler is executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform.

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4-H Launches Campaign to Close Opportunity Gap

NEWS 2020.08.10 Simonton 4 H equity 1
4-H: Screenshot of 6 people in online conversation.


A virtual forum held by the National 4-H Council on Wednesday brought together 4-H youth and adult leaders along with outside panelists to discuss challenges facing youth. The event kicked off a 4-H campaign to address the opportunity gap.

4-H’s new campaign calls for a nationwide focus on positive youth development to address the opportunity gap among young people. 

It plans to develop a group of 20 youth and adult teams within the Cooperative Extension System to focus on specific projects and create 90-day action plans. They will meet virtually in September and pick specific issues to work on.

“I challenge my peers,” said Tay Moore, a recent graduate of Ringgold High School in Ringgold, Louisiana, and 4-H president in the state. He issued a call to action to mobilize young people and adults to take on projects tackling inequality in an online forum Wednesday. He appeared with Jennifer Sirangelo, president and CEO of the National 4-H Council.

“It’s going to take adults partnering with young people,” Sirangelo said. 

The idea is to build on the 4-H model of creating learning experiences that help young people develop their capacities, work with peers and adults, and influence their community.

A white paper released Wednesday by the National 4-H Council said the organization is responding to a historic moment in which economic inequality is growing and racial inequality is magnified.

4-H, of course, is stepping in where young people protesting racial inequality have already led — especially since George Floyd’s death sparked outrage around the nation.

But it’s in a special position to issue its call. Historically, it operated across rural America but has now advanced into cities and suburbs. Today, as one of the largest youth development organizations in the nation, it reaches 2.6 million rural youth as well as 1.6 million in suburbs and 1.8 million in cities through its clubs, camps, after-school and in-school enrichment programs. Two-thirds of participants are European American, with about 14% Hispanic and 12% African American.

“4-H is in every ZIP Code and county in America,” Siranglo said in an interview. In some areas, it may be the only existing youth development organization, she said.

Arguments about race and inclusiveness

Like so many organizations and institutions in the United States, 4-H has its own history of racial discrimination

And racial tensions exist within the organization, according to the Des Moines Register, which last year investigated a number of complaints against Iowa 4-H. The first state-level Latino leader of Iowa 4-H, John-Paul Chaisson-Cardenas, sued last year, saying he was harassed and then fired because he advocated for greater racial equality and gender identity protection. John Lawrence, vice president of Iowa State University Extension, which runs Iowa 4H, told the newspaper that challenges around racial issues come up in the organization.

In addition, a national 4-H policy welcoming LGBT youth to 4-H — which was rescinded under pressure from the Trump administration — sparked strong opposition among conservatives and evangelical groups in the state.

4-H: Blonde woman in green top speaks on screen

Young people have a lot to deal with today, said Jennifer Sirangelo, president and CEO of the National 4-H Council.

The current moment is a critical one, the white paper said: The coronavirus pandemic has widened the gap in opportunity and threatens a whole generation. 

Fifty-five million young people are negatively impacted and 12 million don’t have reliable broadband internet resources, the organization said in a statement.

Impact of the pandemic

Young people have experienced such disruption since the epidemic began, said Karen Pittman, president and CEO of the Forum for Youth Investment, who took part in the online 4-H event Wednesday as a panelist. School life, family life and community life have changed dramatically, she said.

“All of those simultaneously got flipped,” Pittman said.

It’s vital to build opportunities for young people to work with peers and community and gain a variety of competencies, she said. Then they need opportunities to apply their skills in real-life situations where there is meaning and consequence, she said.

Young people active in 4-H also spoke at the event.

“We are not going to stand by and ignore racial injustice,” said Janya Green, a 4-H member and high school student from Sylvester, Georgia.

Talon Callahan, a 4-H digital ambassador from Ferry County, Washington, said youth activism won’t go away after the coronavirus epidemic ends.

Sophia Rodriguez, a 4-H teen leader in Georgia, said youth have been emboldened, channeling stress and rage into positive ways to address issues. Adults need to dismantle their personal and professional biases, she said.

Nathan Grine, a 4-H youth leader in Ohio, said: “We’re going to have to hold each other accountable to change this [and move it] from just a conversation to action.”

Moving to action

Young people will consider what equity means to them and identify an issue in their community, Sirangelo said. Issues could range from food insecurity to LGBT engagement to the integration of immigrants in their community, she said.

‘That’s where we start — from the young person’s point of view,” she said.

At the September gathering, they will get training on how to plan their project, link to others in the community who can champion the project and make change. They will also network with 4-H groups in other counties, she said. 

“That’s how it spreads in a state,” she said.

“[In addition] we will be convening a town hall of teens later this fall … to amplify their voices about what opportunity looks like and how to impact others in their community,” Sirangelo said.

Political divisiveness

4-H will be working with many partner organizations. No one youth development organization can bridge the opportunity gap in the United States, she said.

A potential obstacle for the campaign is that — particularly in the current polarized political climate — ideas about racism and inequality are flash points.

Sirangelo acknowledged that the wide reach of 4-H means that it includes people of widely different political opinions.

“Our footprint reflects the diversity of the United States,” she said. “But 4-H has a singular mission: positive youth development. We focus on our mission of investing in our youth. We don’t allow ourselves to be dragged into one side or the other.”

Youth development organizations function on the principles that youth are not problems to be solved and they are not clients of the organization’s services, Sirangelo said.

“They are co-creators of our programs,” she said. “We are going to keep our mission focused on them … that will be our compass.”

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Time to Invest In Our Communities, Proven Solutions to Gun Violence

OPINION 2020.08.10 Goodwin Time to Invest2

gun violence: hand held up to stop speeding bulletARKA38/SHUTTERSTOCK

Three months ago, the entire nation was rocked by the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. In the weeks since his murder, a movement has taken shape to demand not only an end to policing, but a refocusing on community-led public safety that saves lives by stopping the use of officers with a firearm in our neighborhoods. 

This national reckoning is based on decades of righteous and rightful anger from Black organizers and community members on the front lines of combating violence. Communities across the country have taken steps to scale back ever-growing police budgets, to strip departments of military-grade equipment that terrorize our streets and to invest in public safety and mental health without putting communities at further risk. 

But while our nation finally tackles systemic racism, economic inequality and discriminatory policing, we’re also experiencing a surge in gun violence — disproportionately impacting communities of color. Shootings in New York are up 53% from the same time last year; in Chicago they’re up 46%, in Atlanta, 23%. This summer of violence has taken the lives of dozens of children across the country, including Amaria Jones, a 13-year-old who was killed in her living room by a stray bullet while showing her mom a TikTok video. 

The coronavirus pandemic and the countless deaths of Black people have exposed and exacerbated the systemic racial inequities and lack of access to opportunities for Black, Brown and Indigenous people — the same people who bear the brunt of the gun violence pandemic. But while these issues have persisted over the generations, it’s time for policymakers to use a new playbook to tackle them.

Local communities and organizers on the front lines of the gun violence and police violence epidemics have long advocated for a more courageous and righteous strategy — one that doesn’t resort to policing, criminalizing and incarcerating people of color. It’s time that lawmakers heed the advice of those closest to the pain; it’s time for us to invest in our communities and the proven solutions to violence, rather than the antiquated strategies that put more police and more guns on our streets.

Listen to members of community

That’s why last week, the Community Justice Action Fund, as well as collaborators from organizations such as the Austin Task Force on Gun Violence and the National Domestic Violence Hotline, released A Policymaker’s Playbook: To Reduce Gun Violence Without Policing Communities, the first of six “playbooks” that will provide a roadmap for elected officials at every level to address these issues. 

gun violence: Amber Goodwin (headshot), executive director of Community Justice Action Fund, smiling woman with long brown hair, brown velvet jacket, brown top

Community Justice Action Fund

Amber Goodwin

We’re joining with activists, policymakers and allies from across the country to demand a new approach to safety and prosperity in our communities. Whether it’s Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, Merci Mack or countless other Black Americans who have lost their lives at the hands of police, we know that increased police presence and bloated police budgets don’t solve these problems, in fact they make them worse. 

Community problems need community solutions. That’s why we’re calling for lawmakers to implement a gun violence reduction strategy that starts and ends with community members. Policymakers should assess the risk in their communities, hire trained community outreach workers, support violence prevention and intervention programs, and invest in programs that boost opportunity and economic growth for people on the front lines. 

These are tried and tested solutions to reduce violence that should be the foundation for every community. In New York City for example, a Crisis Management System that incorporated these evidence-based strategies resulted in a 40% reduction in shootings across program areas. Rather than relying on the failed “tough on crime” strategies of the past, these programs promote healing, prevent trauma and lay the groundwork for economic growth. 

The crises of gun violence and police violence have impacted communities across the country for decades, but the issues are not unrelated. Black men in America make up 6% of the population, but more than half of all gun homicides each year. At the same time, Black men are more than twice as likely as white men to be killed by police. 

While the nation comes to grips with the racist enforcement of policing and the checkered history of systemic racial inequality, it would be unthinkable for communities to continue to make the same mistakes that got us where we are today. Gun violence, including the daily violence that impacts communities of color, is not an intractable problem. Organizers and community leaders closest to these issues have pushed for new solutions for years, only to be silenced. 

It’s time for our elected officials to step up, show some courage and heed the advice of those who know the old solutions won’t cut it. 

Amber Goodwin is the founding director of the Community Justice Action Fund (CJAF) and the Community Justice Reform Coalition. CJAF is the nation’s leading gun violence prevention organization working on policy, education, leadership development, and building resources centered on communities of color. 

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Advancing Health Equity During COVID Crisis Grants

OUR GRANT OPPORTUNITIES: Youth Today’s grant listings are carefully curated for our subscribers working in youth-related industries. Subscribers will find local, state, regional and national grant opportunities.

THIS GRANT’S FOCUS: COVID-19, Health Equity, Social Equality, Structural Racism, Healthcare
Sept. 11, 2020

“The Center for Sharing Public Health Services is offering small grants to support work on cross-jurisdictional sharing (CJS) arrangements designed to advance health equity by addressing social determinants of health (e.g., affordable housing, jobs with fair pay, quality education, affordable healthy food and public safety), the public health response to COVID-19, structural racism or other related issues. In addition to funding, Center staff will provide technical assistance tailored to each grantee’s needs. Grantees are expected to share the progress of their efforts during the project period, share results and lessons learned at the end of the project period and share longer-term activities and results 12 months after the project period ends.

The proposal must:

  • Be designed to advance health equity by addressing social determinants of health, the public health response to COVID-19, structural racism or other related issues; and
  • Involve multiple jurisdictions, or efforts to facilitate CJS throughout a region or state.”

Funder: The Center for Sharing Public Health Services
“(1) A state or local government public health agency or a military public health department; or (2) An American Indian/Alaska Native tribe or tribal entity recognized by the U.S. federal government or by a state; or (3) A nonprofit organization that is tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service Code.”
Amount: Up to $10,000

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>>> CLICK HERE to see all of Youth Today’s COVID-19 GRANT LISTINGS

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Early Child Care for Low-Income Migrant and Seasonal Children Grants

OUR GRANT OPPORTUNITIES: Youth Today’s grant listings are carefully curated for our subscribers working in youth-related industries. Subscribers will find local, state, regional and national grant opportunities.

THIS GRANT’S FOCUS: Early Care, Child Care, Early Education, Immigrant Children, Migrant Families
Sept. 21, 2020

“The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) announces the availability of approximately $5 million to be competitively awarded for the purpose of expanding access to high-quality, comprehensive services to low-income, migrant and seasonal infants and toddlers and their families through Early Head Start-Child Care (EHS-CC) Partnerships, or through the expansion of Early Head Start services. ACF solicits applications from public entities, including states, or private non-profit organizations, including community-based or faith-based organizations, or for-profit agencies that meet eligibility for applying as stated in section 42 U.S.C. § 9840A of the Head Start Act.”

Funder: The Administration for Children and Families (ACF)
“Eligible applicants are any public or private non-profit agencies, including community-based and faith-based organizations, or for-profit agencies pursuant to Section 645A(d) of the Head Start Act, 42 U.S.C. § 9840A(d). Entities operating Head Start programs are eligible to operate Early Head Start programs. Faith-based and community organizations that meet the eligibility requirements are eligible to receive awards under this funding opportunity announcement.”
$500,000 – $4,500,000

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The Education Exchange: Espinoza Supreme Court Lawyer Richard Komer on How the Decision Will Open New Possibilities for School Choice

aug20 podcast exchange komer

A former senior attorney at the Institute of Justice and the lead attorney in the Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue case, Richard Komer, joins Paul E. Peterson to discuss the outcome of that Supreme Court case, and what it could mean for school choice going forward.

Listen to the podcast now.

Joshua Dunn provides analysis for this case for Education Next, with “In Supreme Court Case, a Far-Reaching Win for Religious-School Parents.”

Follow The Education Exchange on Soundcloud, Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher or here on Education Next.

— Education Next

The post The Education Exchange: Espinoza Supreme Court Lawyer Richard Komer on How the Decision Will Open New Possibilities for School Choice appeared first on Education Next.

Georgia Town Can’t Save Money By Reducing Gun Violence Due to Budget Woes

NEWS 2020.08.06 Maconized Maconized 1.Jason Vorheesx1000FEAT
Grass growing around empty parking lot around closed large building.

Jason Vorhees

A closed Walgreens in Macon, Georgia. “Everybody says Macon is a dangerous place to be,” Bibb County Sheriff David Davis said.

MACON, Georgia — Carl Fambro says Macon’s West Macon neighborhood has been left behind. Anchor businesses at its shopping centers — like Home Depot and the Burlington Coat Factory — have moved down the road. The few gyms and youth recreation centers that are still open have irregular hours. Several churches have left. 

In 2009, Fambro moved his business, Francar’s Wings, from a spot on Log Cabin Drive to Mercer Village, a retail and restaurant district. The restaurant stopped delivering to the old neighborhood when one of its drivers was threatened during a delivery run. 

“I gotta watch out for my folks,” he said.

But Fambro knew leaving wouldn’t fix Village Green’s problems. Last year, he got a small grant to fund Peace in the Village, a community-generated action plan to address the neighborhood’s most pressing crime and violence issues. 

“We can’t come here, but we can’t just let this lie like it is,” he said.

Macon: Man in ball cap, T-shirt dunking something in plastic tub in commercial kitchen.

Jason Vorhees

Owner Carl Fambro makes a sample of Mercer Gold wings at Francar’s Buffalo Wings on Sept. 26, 2019.

For nearly a century, Macon has had a reputation for extraordinary levels of violence, and for decades, the city’s violent crime rate has consistently exceeded state and national rates. In 2019, Bibb County’s rate of per capita shootings was almost as high as Chicago’s. Macon’s murder rate in the first half of 2020 was one of the highest on record. 

It’s not just individual neighborhoods that suffer the downstream effects of violence. 

“We’ve lost our character and image because everybody says Macon is a dangerous place to be, Macon’s a terrible place to live,” said Bibb County Sheriff David Davis, adding that due to those perceptions, “people may not want to live here. Businesses … decide not to locate here. People who are here and have the means to leave — [they] leave. And then that makes our community much, much poorer and less diverse.”

Violence costs cities more than just the lives of its residents; it also costs cities money. The financial toll of violence shows up in the immediate health care and criminal justice costs of the aftermath, but it is also evident in lost income over the longer term, as individuals and businesses — like Fambro’s — divest from communities suffering high levels of violence.

Mounting evidence suggests violence is so financially costly that for cities looking to increase their budgets, reducing violence may be a powerful way to save dollars. 

Financial arguments not the opposite of moral ones

Although economists have been examining the cost of violence for decades, several recent efforts have yielded some estimates of the potential savings to taxpayers that even small reductions in urban violence could produce — often in the range of millions of dollars per homicide. 

“Basically, anything you do to address urban gun violence pays for itself many times over, even if it’s only moderately effective — even if it’s expensive, because the cost of a single homicide is so expensive,” wrote Thomas Abt in an email

Macon: Thomas Abt - Serious-looking man with graying hair, mustache, beard, wearing glasses, dark blue jacket, light blue shirt.

Basic Books

Thomas Abt

Abt is a senior fellow at the Council on Criminal Justice and author of the book “Bleeding Out: The Devastating Consequences of Urban Violence — and a Bold New Plan for Peace in the Streets.” 

Several organizations working to reduce urban violence have made a financial case for their work. Among them is Cure Violence, a violence prevention program rooted in a street outreach approach, that has demonstrated dramatic reductions in violence in 25  U.S. cities and 15 countries: a 56% reduction in killings in Baltimore; a 63% reduction in shootings in the South Bronx; 100% reductions in retaliation homicides in five of eight Chicago communities. 

The program, which originated in Chicago, aims to reduce violence by approaching it as a communicable disease: In the immediate aftermath of a shooting, trained violence interrupters and outreach workers work in the community and at hospitals to prevent the spiral of retaliatory violence that often follows. They also connect the highest-risk community members with services and support, and work to change community norms. 

The organization has published estimates suggesting every dollar spent on the program reduces medical and criminal justice costs by nearly $16. But increasingly, activists and city administrators are realizing that the true savings of violence prevention are likely even higher — and that the financial case for implementing violence prevention programs may be the most compelling one to some stakeholders.

Still, funding violence prevention often runs up against the “wrong-pockets problem,” said Abt — the question of whether the city official who makes a violence prevention decision is still in office to enjoy the windfall that decision yields many years down the road. 

“That’s very hard to figure out, and so the idea that you can change a particular policymaker’s behavior is much harder because they may not see those savings,” he said. 

Macon: 3 smiling men pose wearing maroon Cities United T-shirts

Cities United

Cities United Executive Director Anthony Smith (center) says there’s an obvious moral argument for violence prevention but financial arguments are not their opposite. He was with Hampton, Virginia, Mayor Donnie Tuck (left) and Louisville, Kentucky, Mayor Greg Fischer at the organization’s 6th Annual Convening in August 2019.

Violence prevention is often presented as “the right thing to do” without also being presented as the financially responsible thing to do, said Anthony Smith. He is the executive director of Cities United, a nonprofit organization that helps cities comprehensively prevent violence by supporting violence prevention programs (like Cure Violence and others) and facilitating longer-term work to change their systems. 

There is an obvious moral argument for violence prevention, said Smith — but financial arguments are not their opposite. They’re just easier to sell to those who “might see it as a moral thing, but they don’t move in a way that they would move if it were the economic and bottom line,” he said.

Pricing out gun violence

City administrators need to know how much violence costs to determine how much money violence prevention saves. The great majority of violent crime in the U.S. involves guns — and in any city, a cascade of events follows a shooting, beginning at the scene of the crime. Police, fire department and emergency medical services respond to the scene, and a police investigation takes place. 

Once evidence is gathered, a specialized company conducts a cleanup of the crime scene. Gunshot victims are stabilized in trauma centers and often undergo surgery, inpatient hospital care and stay in rehabilitation centers. 

Meanwhile, the case against the alleged perpetrator of a shooting moves through the criminal justice system, which usually includes prosecution by the district attorney and defense by the public defender and a court process. During this process — and afterward, if a guilty verdict is handed down — the alleged perpetrator is incarcerated in a county or city jail, then in state prison.

In the case of a homicide, gunshot victims may be autopsied and must be buried, and their surviving loved ones may require bereavement support and additional financial support if the victim was the household’s main breadwinner. Surviving gunshot victims are often temporarily or permanently disabled and unable to return to work. In the case of incarceration of the alleged perpetrator and/or death of the victim, neither will pay income or sales tax.

Each of these points in the cascade costs money — but exactly how much? In 2018, the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (NICJR) tried to answer that question in a series of studies of the cost per shooting in six U.S. cities. The lowest cost for a fatal shooting was in Mobile, Alabama ($765,000) and the highest was in Stockton, California ($2.5 million). 

The estimated costs were for shootings involving one suspect, and often nearly doubled when two suspects were involved. The biggest costs — which were likely to also affect state budgets — came from incarceration, which at minimum cost more than four times any other sector did. 

The cost to prevent one homicide is about $30,000, Abt estimates, in the context of a city’s rollout of a combination of focused violence prevention efforts. Using that figure, the return on a violence prevention investment in Mobile would be nearly 26-fold; Stockton’s investment would return $83 for each dollar spent. Even with prison placement costs removed, the return on investment would be substantial: nine-fold in Mobile and 16-fold in Stockton.

The savings of lowering violence

In a 2012 report, the Center for American Progress (CAP) presented estimates of the costs of violent crime to eight U.S. cities. In addition to many of the costs later counted in the NICJR studies, the CAP report tried to quantify the intangible costs of survivors’ pain and suffering. 

It also presented an analysis of the savings each city could expect if its violent crime rates decreased by either 10% or 25%. These savings included lower spending on police departments and courts and higher revenues from income earned by people who otherwise would have been crime victims or perpetrators.

But it was another source of savings that dominated a potential lower-crime landscape: housing values. The report found that homicides had a remarkable influence on the cost of housing in the neighborhoods where they took place: On average, reducing homicides in one ZIP code in one year yielded a 1.5% increase in housing values in that ZIP code the following year. The results were robust and consistent across the metropolitan areas of all eight cities. 

When housing values increase, the property tax revenues assessed also eventually rise. Over time, higher-valued housing stock leads to increased home sales, permitting and construction costs, all of which add dollars to city coffers. In turn, these changes draw business investment in neighborhoods, presenting additional sources of tax revenue.

The CAP report did not go so far as to project financial gains from the downstream effects of increasing housing values, nor to estimate the dollar value of increases in property tax revenue — it only projected cities’ expected total increase in the value of its housing stock with a 10% reduction in homicides. That increase ranged from $600 million in Jacksonville, Florida to $4.4 billion in Boston. 

The NICJR studies did not consider lost property revenues among their costs. But in 2019, the city of Philadelphia did: After a year in which the city saw more homicides than in a decade, the office of its controller published a report that focused on the financial losses the city has sustained due to homicides, particularly on lost property value and tax revenue.

Philadelphia Controller Rebecca Rhynhart has seen other worthwhile projects go unfunded because cities argue they cannot afford them. “What I wanted to show,” she said, “is that there really isn’t an argument to be made that we don’t have the resources to fight this.”

Tall weeds growing up against windows that say united tax service westgate

Jason Vorhees

Former location of United Tax Service at the Westgate Shopping Center.

The report centered on the link the CAP report had identified between neighborhood safety and home value. Philadelphia found that on average, eliminating one homicide would lead to a 2.3% increase in sale prices in the immediate neighborhood. According to the authors’ projections, reducing homicides by 10% in a single year would cost $10.5 million and yield a $13 million increase in property tax revenue. Over five years, the compounding effect of taxing an increasingly valuable home would bump the increased revenue to $114 million and the costs to $43 million — more than a 2.5-fold return on each dollar.

Did the eight cities in the 2012 CAP report implement violence prevention efforts in response to the study? Smith of Cities United doesn’t know. Such programs have been introduced in some of those cities since the report came out (Philadelphia and Boston, for instance), but it’s not clear that was in response to the report. 

Leaders in other cities may also be increasingly aware of the financial benefits of violence prevention. In a Chicago Sun-Times editorial last October, several city aldermen wrote that if Chicago rededicated to violence prevention just a fraction of the $3.5 billion it spends annually to cope with the downstream effects of gun violence, “we could save taxpayers billions of dollars every year.”

Funding can be a barrier — but it’s not the only one

What does it actually take for a city to sustainably reduce violence? When Cities United helps a city try to achieve that goal, it starts with the mayors, Smith said. They choose a team of program champions from among their staff and the community. After a weeklong training at the organization’s Louisville, Kentucky, headquarters, that team starts down a path toward implementing a violence prevention program.

The biggest obstacles they face are not where you might expect them: Law enforcement officials are usually receptive to violence prevention programs, Smith said.

 “You hear over and over again, ‘We can’t arrest our way out of this,’” he said. 

It’s when the budget conversation starts that things get a little tricky. 

“The first thing that people go to is, ‘Are you taking dollars away?’” he said. 

And sometimes, to make sure enough is invested up front to help a violence prevention program be effective, money may indeed come out of the budget of a police department or another city line item. Smith tries to reframe the conversation around how violence prevention will help law enforcement meet its own goals, and the value of working in partnership: “It’s an add-on in the long term that makes everybody’s job easier.”

It’s not just law enforcement who pushes back on this change in paradigm: “Community members who don’t understand and who actually already feel safe because of law enforcement feel like they’re losing something, too,” Smith said. Elected officials seeking to appear “tough on crime” sometimes can’t see a path toward that image that includes violence prevention.

Although recent outcry against police abuses has led to rising national interest in community-based alternatives to law enforcement, pandemic-related cuts to Macon’s budget probably translate to a low appetite for implementing new programs in the area, said Fred Ammons, CEO of Community Health Works, a nonprofit organization focused on improving Georgians’ health outcomes. “The impact of the pandemic on municipal and state revenues will likely inhibit any upfront investments in new programs, even public health approaches to violence prevention,” he wrote in an email.

Smith pushes city officials to fund violence prevention programs fully and for the long term, as discontinuous or inadequate funding for these programs can cause real damage — not only to these programs’ credibility, but to the people at the heart of their work. Over the 20-year lifespan of Cure Violence, funding for the program’s Chicago sites has lapsed three times. Each lapse has been associated with striking increases in violence in the neighborhoods served by those sites.  

Smith said he is often frustrated that the halfhearted funding of violence prevention programs results in incomplete “professionalization” of the people who put their lives on the line to do the street-level work: Outreach workers and violence interrupters usually work part time and without benefits, he said, including mental health support and clear pathways for advancement. Inadequate support raises their risk for returning to illegal activities just to make ends meet, he said.

In communities where violence has been the norm for years, violence prevention programs alone are not enough to create durable change. For that reason, the second prong of Cities United’s approach is to ask mayors to think long term about what public safety really means. 

“It’s not about jails, law enforcement and detention centers, but it really is about access to quality education, access to affordable housing, opportunities to make a living wage,” Smith said. “We want to reduce homicides, but we also want to make sure that the folks that we’re keeping alive have reason to be alive, right?”

Sheriff Davis agrees. In Macon’s worst-affected neighborhoods, concentrated poverty, low educational and employment opportunity, and blight layer on to create deep despair that cannot be solved with just one social program. “Until there is movement on some of the more basic inadequacies, we’re still gonna see some of this violence,” he said. 

The message Smith sees in analyses like the one Philadelphia conducted is clear: “We need to pay this upfront because of what it saves us in the long run,” he said — and not just in the number of lives saved. “The bigger picture for most of the folks that you try to make the financial case to is, ‘What does the city gain in the end?’”

Twenty-seven people attended the first meeting Fambro convened in late February. The number was smaller than he’d hoped for, but large enough to produce a list of 10 community concerns — gun and youth violence were numbers one and two. The group also produced an action plan to address blight and the vacuum of youth recreation options in the area. But in the weeks following, the first waves of Georgia’s coronavirus pandemic began to rise, bringing plans for basketball tournaments, block parties and neighborhood outreach campaigns to a screeching halt. 

For now, at least one of the items on the action plan is still in play: a socially distanced youth class in mobile app and website design led by instructors from Central Georgia Technical College. The plan is to hold the class at a locally accessible library, and the goal, said Fambro, is to show kids a pathway to education and professions in information technology. 

“That is still on the hook,” he said. “Somehow, we’ve got to make that happen.”

This is a collaboration between the Center for Sustainable Journalism, which publishes Youth Today and the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange and the Macon Telegraph. It’s part of the Center’s national project on gun violence. Support is provided by The Kendeda Fund. The Center is solely responsible for the content and maintains editorial independence.

The post Georgia Town Can’t Save Money By Reducing Gun Violence Due to Budget Woes appeared first on Youth Today.

If Many More Private Schools Close, All Schools Will Suffer

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Portraits of Joe Biden, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and Barry Goldwater.
Strange bedfellows on private school choice. From left: Joe Biden, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and Barry Goldwater.

America’s private schools are not immune to the dangers posed by Covid-19. In fact, without prompt help from Uncle Sam, they may be among the institutions at greatest risk of succumbing to the virus.

More than 100 private schools have announced that they will be closing their doors permanently, at least in part because of the pandemic. That number is sure to climb as families hard hit by the crisis make enrollment decisions for the fall, as schools face the prospect of reopening below capacity because of safety concerns, and as fears of the coronavirus continue to depress church attendance and therefore the regular contributions from parishioners that help sustain parochial schools.

It is not the well-endowed private schools serving the one percent that face risk. Perhaps that is why the national media has paid so little attention to this crisis. According to the CATO Institute, which is tracking private-school closures nationally, the average annual tuition charged at the schools that have announced that they will close is under $7,000—less than half of the average per-pupil spending on public schools nationwide.

Widespread private-school closures pose problems not just for the students who attend them, but also for public-school budgets nationwide. Whatever one thinks of using government funds to expand school choice, there is no denying that the nation’s 5.7 million students who now attend private schools save money for taxpayers, who otherwise would have to pay to educate these children in public schools. The pro-school-choice American Federation for Children pegs the annual savings to state and local governments at $75 billion.

Nearly 50 years ago, fears about the budget implications of private-school closures sparked a series of bipartisan efforts in Congress to provide relief for this sector. One such proposal—a tax credit for K–12 and higher-education tuition expenses—even passed the House of Representatives in 1978. The measure’s champion in the Senate was Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a Democrat from New York. The heterodox coalition that backed the concept in a series of votes that August included former Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater of Arizona and Joe Biden, then Delaware’s junior senator and a product of Catholic schools.

The 1978 bill ultimately foundered in the Senate, owing in part to doubts about the constitutionality of using federal funds to support families attending religious schools. The U.S. Supreme Court has long since laid that concern to rest. Its 2002 Zelman decision upheld state-funded vouchers for religious private schools, and this term the court even ruled that state constitutions cannot be used to bar religious schools from participating in school-choice programs (see “In Supreme Court Case, a Far-Reaching Win for Religious-School Parents,” legal beat).

What’s also changed since the 1970s is the alignment of support for policies to sustain private-school choice. Like so many issues in American politics, this one has polarized sharply along party lines. Yes, current survey data show that school-choice proposals garner high levels of support from Black and Hispanic voters—core Democratic constituencies. Today, however, it is hard to imagine a prominent Democrat like Moynihan leading a charge to provide aid to private schools, even in times of economic distress, or a Democratic backbench senator joining that cause. The fact that the Trump administration has made a federal tax credit to support private-school scholarships its top education priority makes deviations from the party line all the more unlikely.

This political reality doesn’t change the fact that private schools need relief now—and that failing to provide that relief would only aggravate the financial challenges facing all schools. As Kirabo Jackson and colleagues demonstrate in this issue (see “The Costs of Cutting School Spending,” research), policymakers and advocates have a strong case for a new round of federal aid to support state and local education budgets. Cuts to school spending in the wake of the Great Recession helped cause the first nationwide decline in student test scores in a half-century, as well as a drop in the number of new college students. As the virus continues to spread, the additional expenses schools face in preparing to reopen, whether in person or virtually, only strengthen that case.

Yet private schools face those same expenses, and failing to support them will only heighten the challenges for public schools. A bill introduced on July 22 by Senators Tim Scott and Lamar Alexander would provide a one-time appropriation of funds to state-based organizations that provide private-school scholarships. It would also create a permanent federal tax credit for donations to those organizations. The latter proposal seems like a heavy lift now, given the politics of the issue. But Republicans in the Senate may yet be able to use their leverage to ensure that America’s private schools do not become another vulnerable population left exposed.

Martin West

Read more from Education Next on coronavirus and Covid-19.

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How Schools and Teachers Can Get Better at Cultural Competence

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The murder of George Floyd has led to a movement to hold police departments and officers accountable. It’s also an opportunity for educators to work on becoming culturally competent in a diverse society.

A Cypriot limestone votive ear, 4th-3rd century B.C.
“The beginning of understanding is listening.”
A Cypriot limestone votive ear, 4th-3rd century B.C. from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The National Education Association describes cultural competence as “having an awareness of one’s own cultural identity and views about difference, and the ability to learn and build on the varying cultural and community norms of students and their families.” The differences that make individuals unique are essential ingredients of America, part of our country’s strength.

When educators fail to acknowledge their own biases and assumptions, the hindrance of a student’s developmental process is inevitable. Having good intentions is not sufficient; the actions are what will be seen and felt by students. What one individual may perceive as innocent can have detrimental ramifications. Districts need to feel the urgency and race to end exclusionary practices by practicing the following:

R Recognize your own biases, ideas, and stereotypes of cultures that are different from your own.

A Admit/Acknowledge that there are differences in the treatment of people based on their appearance.

C Commit to being a part of the change that is needed in seeing that people are treated fairly.

E Educate yourself and others on cultural differences to gain more understanding.

No longer can administrators and staff steer away from cultural conversations. Cultural competence is more than just learning about the music students enjoy or understanding their slang. For individuals to become competent in another culture, they must first understand their own biases and stereotypical ideas. This recognition allows people to become more aware of their thoughts and actions towards others who do not look like them.

The opportunity is now for districts to address the reality of bias, stereotypes, and cultural differences for cultural competency. While Covid-19 and preparing for another school closure is necessary, so is the importance of cultural competency. If districts forfeit the opportunity to address injustice, the damage could be catastrophic.

Cultural Competence in Schools

Many classrooms are diverse as a result of either the differences within the student population or the differences between the teaching population and the student body. If cultural competency is to become an essential component of schools, training must be more than a single day. Checking off back-to-school professional-development boxes is insufficient to identify, address, and begin to resolve bias, stereotypes, and discrimination.

To begin, schools must shift away from the notion of culture as a celebration or event. Instead, schools should move to a view of culture as experiences, knowledge, beliefs, and values that affect the lives of everyone in the school building.

Gaining cultural competency will require a plan. Tight schedules and the need for pandemic-related preparations do not leave an abundance of time for cultural competency training. However, the time does allow for foundational discussions. School districts should provide training throughout the entire year.

Understanding Cultural Awareness

  1. Know the Community You Serve — Teachers sometimes work in communities where they do not live. The biggest mistake with this practice is when educators fail to educate themselves about the community in which they serve.

I can recall a specific day when the main road into school was shut down. A teacher had difficulty navigating into work and asked for help getting home. As I led the teacher in my care through the parts of the city where our students lived, the teacher called my phone to make sure the route we were on was safe. I reassured the teacher the route was safe and continued to navigate through the city. Once we exited the city and the teacher was familiar with the area, I received a call thanking me for my help. I asked the teacher if this route was a route she would take in the future. The response was an emphatic no. In essence, the teacher was unwilling and afraid to navigate the same city streets as the population we serve.

There can be vast differences between hearsay about a community and the factual historical reality of the community. Fear should not be the driving emotion when serving a community. Asking questions and searching for answers to help better serve the community should be the prevailing mindset.

  1. Identify Areas for Growth — Everyone has a past and upbringing that has shaped the way they view the world. Those experiences themselves are not negative, but when these experiences skew the way a person views others, an adjustment may be required.

A few years ago, a teacher entered my office upset about the disposition of a student. As the student stood beside the upset teacher, I began to listen to the teacher explain the incident. What was explained was the reality that the teacher was upset with the student’s disrespectful attitude. I asked for more details about the perceived disrespectful nature of the attitude. The teacher described colloquialism, tone, and a lack of eye contact. At that moment I dismissed the student and explained that the student was not being disrespectful, but rather what the teacher was experiencing was the method of communication in which the student interacts with his community.

Educators must have an inner dialogue to determine what experiences have shaped the teacher’s views of students. Districts must create space to have a broader discussion and be realistic about how teachers’ individual bias encroaches on the rights of students. The space for a macro conversation for the district is necessary and must be accompanied with how cultural awareness is reflected in individual buildings.

  1. Listen and Observe—What may seem as a simple task is rarely practiced. The beginning of understanding is listening. When one is constantly talking there is no room for listening.

In my early years as an educator, I served as dean of school culture. One responsibility of the job was to oversee school discipline in a predominantly black school. One classroom of 13 students included a white male teacher and one white male student. This particular student was involved in several incidents daily. One of his first comments was always, “no one understands, and no one listens to me.” Everything came to climax one day. I had to mediate a situation between the student’s parent and the teacher. What was uncovered in the meeting was the student felt no one understood him because he was white, and he did not feel welcomed in the school. As a school, we failed this student by not taking the time to listen to his needs.

Districts and educators fail at cultural awareness because listening has not been initiated. Listen to the parents, listen to the students, listen to your peers, listen to your staff. When what you hear corroborates what you see, act. Far too often districts fail to see because they fail to listen.

  1. Develop Cross-Cultural Skills—One of the biggest mistakes made across cultures is the attempt to try to fit in. Fitting in leads to offensive words that can cause a strain in relationships.

Just last year I was in the school’s main office receiving food from parents for a cultural celebration. One specific dish a parent made was heated to a high temperature. To show my newly acquired Spanish skills I uttered to the parent “mucho caliente.” As I watched the front office staff gasp and show visible signs of discomfort, I knew I said something wrong. When the parent left the office I immediately asked, “Did I say something wrong?” I learned using the term “mucho caliente” to the opposite sex is offensive even though I was talking about food and not the parent. I learned a valuable lesson that day. Cross-cultural skills take time and an intentional effort rooted in understanding.

Cultural awareness is not only being aware of black students. Cultural competency is recognizing the differences in everyone represented in the school regardless of race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. Now is the time to lean into cultural competency to strengthen the relationships between the school and the community. Districts cannot assume staff understand cultural competence. Leaders must take the initiative to provide adequate space to discuss cultural differences and reestablish norms built on cultural competency. Talking about change is over. Now is the time for words to become actions.

George Farmer is an administrator at an elementary school in Camden, New Jersey, and a doctoral candidate in educational leadership at Capella University.

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How Charter School Regulations Harm Minority School Operators

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It’s the oldest story in public policy. Regulations keep less favored providers from entering a market, allowing in only those who have the money to comply with the regulations or friends in high places to look the other way. In the name of protecting the public, government intervention ends up empowering the powerful. Such regulations have always had particularly pernicious impacts on African Americans.

Students at Arizona Agribusiness and Equine Center High School - Paradise Valley
Through much of its history the charter movement served teachers and local parents by empowering educators outside the mainstream, including small, innovative operators like the Arizona Agribusiness and Equine Center in Arizona, where students participate in equestrian activities as part of their course requirements.

Economists like Milton Friedman and Walter Williams have long written about how government licensing boards and bureaucracies refused to find minorities qualified to practice professions from doctor to teamster, keeping African Americans out. Such government regulations, justified as protecting the public from poor service, in practice increased prices for consumers and presented huge barriers to upward mobility for minorities.

Perhaps nowhere is this truer than in that most regulated of service sectors, education. In traditional public schools, upward mobility is often determined by personal patronage rather than good teaching, as then community organizer Barack Obama lamented of the Chicago public schools in his autobiography, Dreams from my Father. As Obama and others have pointed out, the charter school movement was meant to allow newcomers like parents, teachers, and preachers to open schools in their own communities.

When charters were first conceived nearly 30 years ago, they were intended to pioneer educational practices outside traditional public school bureaucracies and also to allow education newcomers to provide out of the box options, especially in minority communities where students were historically underserved by traditional public schools. Through much of its history the charter movement did in fact serve teachers and local parents by empowering educators outside the mainstream, including small, innovative operators like the Seven Generations Charter School in Pennsylvania, which focuses on environmental stewardship, or the Arizona Agribusiness and Equine Center in Arizona, where students participate in equestrian activities as part of their course requirements. These education options have helped scores of students.

Yet the charter movement has strayed from its founding ideals. Philanthropies have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the charter movement. Their demand for results—typically measured by test scores alone— coupled with intense scrutiny of chartering from teacher unions and their allies has resulted in copycat practices. Rather than innovate, charters emulate the practices of schools with a strong track record of achievement.

Many state governments have tacitly supported the achievement- rather than innovation-focused model of charter schooling. As we show in our just published study in Urban Education, “Charter School Regulation as a Disproportionate Barrier to Entry,” since the early 2000s policy-makers in most states have increased regulation with the worthwhile goal of assuring that only those most likely to produce test score gains receive a charter to run a school. The unfortunate result, though, is that fewer minority educators and independent community-based educators receive charters, which instead go to white operators, and to deep pocketed charter management organizations, or CMOs, typically multi-state non-profit organizations founded by Teach For America alumni. These “cool kids of education reform”—with friends in high places, the sophistication to handle regulations, and access to capital to build and expand schools—may have deeper pockets and fancy credentials, but also are less representative of and know less about the low income, mainly minority communities that most charter schools serve.

Our study indicates that the effect of regulation on controlling market entry can be dramatic. In high-regulation states like Texas, Ohio, and Indiana, White and Asian applicants are more than twice as likely to receive authorization compared to Black and Hispanic applicants. Moreover, applicants affiliated with CMOs are more than twice as likely to receive authorization compared to unaffiliated applicants. In low-regulation Arizona and North Carolina, differences in success rate vary only marginally according to applicant race or affiliation with a CMO.

The observation that stringent charter authorizing regulation disproportionately affects people of color is troubling, especially at a time when most of us critically reflect on how to ensure equitable access to the American dream. Beyond those gut feelings, it is likely that disproportionate costs imposed upon would-be charter operators of color also disproportionately harm students of color. A strong and growing body of research literature indicates that students of color (and especially charter school students of color) benefit from student- teacher and administrator race-matching, sometimes in ways undetected by test scores.

All of this invites the question: How does an authorizing body best evaluate a charter school, or proposed charter school? For one, listen. Parents have a lot to say about what their kids need from a school, and whether a school meets those needs. Their intuition is good: Research suggests that parents are adept at picking schools that suit their children when provided the option. As states like California and Pennsylvania mull strengthening their charter regulatory regimes, they’d do well to take heed to ensure that people of color are stewards and not subjects of the charter schooling movement.

Ian Kingsbury is a postdoctoral fellow at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy. Robert Maranto is the 21st Century Chair in Leadership in the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas.

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How Has COVID-19 Affected Schooling of Young People With Disabilities?

OPINION 2020.08.07 DisabilitiesSchooling Aleksandr Khmeliov SHTTR x100072FEATflip
education with disabilities & COVID-19: schoolgirl on headphones lying on floor and typing at a laptop

Aleksandr Khmeliov/Shutterstock


As schools begin to open back up, many young people and their families are facing the unexpected. Understandably, they have questions about their safety, and some still question whether it is too soon to return. For young people with disabilities it is riskier to be in schools, so I had to ask how their schooling has been affected since the pandemic began.

I spoke to Gillian Crossman, who is 20, lives in Boston and goes by the nickname Scarlett. She said the past semester of school had quite a few challenges and not knowing what fall semester would look like was also a disappointment. However, she said that regardless, she was grateful to have had access to a computer and other materials.

education with disabilities & COVID-19: smiling woman with long blonde hair wearing red tank top and camouflage leggings sits on porch holding large dog’s paws over her shoulders

Gillian Crossman

COVID “has affected my schooling dramatically. Within 24 hours my college shut down and we had to return home. We weren’t expecting or preparing to move to remote learning for the rest of the school year, not to mention that we still don’t know how the fall is going to look,” she said.

Crossman lives with POTS or postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, a condition that affects blood flow, as well as endometriosis, a disorder in which tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside the uterus. She also has chronic migraines and post-traumatic stress disorder. She is involved with the disabled community by being a service dog handler and by spreading education and awareness about disabilities, chronic illnesses and service dogs. She blogs about her journey and hopes to be able to support and spread love to other people. 

Paula Stübs is 22 and lives in Essen, Germany. She gave me some insight into how young people with disabilities are handling their schooling abroad. Stübs lives with SMA or spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic disease affecting the central nervous system, peripheral nervous system and voluntary muscle movement. Stübs said young people with disabilities have been facing additional challenges and discrimination due to COVID-19.

education with disabilities & COVID-19: Young woman with longish unicorn-colored hair sits in wheelchair

Paula Stübs

“I think for most of us, especially with all the talk about who will get a treatment if they get infected and who won‘t, are pretty scared by the situation,” she said. “It feels like we’re currently facing an extra wave of ableism, in addition to what we usually face. 

“My uni has turned all classes into online classes and the next semester will most likely look the same or similar,” Stübs said. “Since it was a shift that had to be done on very short notice a lot of it didn’t work perfectly and it was a lot of work for everyone. For me personally, going to classes in person is better, but i do hope we will keep the possibility of online classes as well as this is making education accessible for more people that would usually struggle with going to their classes but could manage well in online classes!”

Crossman brought up another point about doing schoolwork from home — the other people you live with. 

“A lot of my courses were lab-based and in-person-based [hands on] type of learning, and having to move to online really impacted how some of the courses finished,” she said. “It also impacted my grade score because you can’t really learn ‘labs’ online. It was also very difficult sharing the house with three other people who were either teaching or doing Zoom calls for learning purposes. I can’t even imagine how bigger families handled this situation. I’m lucky and grateful that I had access to a computer and other materials, but it was certainly a challenge that I would prefer not to occur again.”

To me, there are several takeaways from this situation. It goes without saying that we should monitor the conditions in schools closely, but we also may have learned that the pandemic has uncovered a new way of learning that may be beneficial to young people who are disabled. As we start the new semester, I urge you to keep an open mind about how we can make our schools more accessible in any situation that may arise.

mental health: disabilities, : Deandra Mouzon (headshot), Georgia-based journalist, smiling woman with black hair, earrings, orange top

Deandra Mouzon

Deandra Mouzon is a Georgia-based journalist who received a B.A. in journalism from CUNY’s York College. Currently she is working on a publication about youth with disabilities.



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Iowa and Wisconsin Community Grants

OUR GRANT OPPORTUNITIES: Youth Today’s grant listings are carefully curated for our subscribers working in youth-related industries. Subscribers will find local, state, regional and national grant opportunities.

THIS GRANT’S FOCUS: Child/Youth Welfare, Basic Needs, Food Access, Employment, Environment, Housing
Sept. 1, 2020

“The Alliant Energy Foundation’s Community Grants are directed to nonprofit programs and projects that benefit customers in Alliant Energy communities in Iowa and Wisconsin. We fund projects in four focus areas: Hunger and Housing, Workforce Readiness, Environmental Stewardship, and Diversity, Safety and Wellbeing.

Hunger and Housing – Clothing and Household Needs, Food and Nutrition, Housing and Shelter.

Workforce Readiness – Agriculture, Literacy, STEM, Workforce Development, Youth Development and Mentoring.

Environmental Stewardship – Environmental Conservation, Environmental Education, Park Updates, Trail Projects.

Diversity, Safety and Wellbeing – First Responders, Disaster Readiness and Relief, Domestic/Child Abuse, Equity and Inclusion.”

Funder: The Alliant Energy Foundation
“Registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization with a valid IRS tax ID (EIN); or a governmental unit, town, village, or city; or an accredited school, college or university. The program must take place and serve customers within the Alliant Energy service territory.”
$500 – $5,000

>>> CLICK HERE to see all of Youth Today’s GRANT LISTINGS

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Youth Homelessness Is a Symptom, Not a Cause

OPINION 2020.08.05 YouthHomelessness Aspects and Angles SHTTR FEAT
 homelessness: Fight Poverty Not the Poor protest

Aspects and Angles


(Series: Part 5 of 7)

Part 1: How Do We Make Youth Homelessness Effort Bipartisan?

Part 2: America’s Biases Marginalize Youth, Drive Them to Homelessness

Part 3: Collective Decision-making Can Neutralize Politics of Fear

Part 4: So How Does This Collective Decision-making Work?

Now that we have equalized the playing field among the political and ideological spectrum, let’s turn to two more groups of stakeholders that must be at the table and included in a governor’s executive order — advocacy groups and youth. 

In New Mexico, for example, the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness must be at the table. They are the largest advocacy group with a statewide network of programs and shelters having been advocating the longest. They are rich with knowledge and experience of the problem and the means to go about approaching it, but they need the backbone and support of the various state actors who can contribute collectively to build a much stronger network as well as a more formidable statewide approach.

And of course, and as we mentioned previously, we must consult with those who are impacted the most — the youth.

Framing the problem, issues

Once a collaborative team has been created, it is time to frame the problem and issues, which proves to be the most significant step in the decision-making process. Framing the problem and issues is essential because how a problem or decision is defined also defines the available alternatives to resolving the problem. 

Framing the problem describes the global context for the decision. For example, “What is the ultimate objective of the decision? What are the root-cause causes of the issue?” The group must begin with the symptom and keep asking why until the cause is discovered.

This approach is analogous to the model of epidemiology (i.e., the study of disease). This model is the quintessential approach to discovering causes. The premise is grounded in getting to know the targeted population (in our case, homeless youth) and not limiting the question to why youth are homeless, but also asking why the system is faring poorly in preventing and reducing youth homelessness. 

Looking to epidemiology, the study is driven in part by two basic facts: (1) diseases do not occur by chance — there are always determinants for the disease to occur — and (2) diseases are not distributed at random — distribution is related to risk factors that need to be studied for the population in order to identify solutions. 

The state of homelessness of course is not a disease, but it behaves like diseases. Homelessness does not occur by chance nor is it randomly distributed, which means it can be studied to identify its root causes. Once the causes are identified, solutions can be better identified. 

Judge Steven Teske (headshot), chief judge of the Juvenile Court of Clayton County, Ga., smiling man in judge’s robes, bowtie, short light brown hair, glasses halfway down nose, in front of bookcase of legal books

Judge Steven C. Teske

By framing the problem from an epidemiological context, our perspective shifts away from viewing homelessness as a cause and more so as a symptom of deep-rooted causes. By analogy, the same holds true for treating delinquent behaviors. Because the delinquent conduct is a symptom of underlying causes, punishment does not do well to rehabilitate delinquent behaviors. 

The end result is to punish the symptom. Imagine your doctor punishing you for having the flu instead of using diagnostic tools to determine what is causing your headaches, fever, coughing and other symptoms. You would not return to the doctor and might even file a complaint with the medical licensing board. 

Framing the problem of any social issue must include the fiscal impact of the problem on taxpayers. We have reviewed the literature respecting the costs of homelessness and the best estimate, which was reviewed by Politifact, is that it costs taxpayers at a minimum $35,000 per homeless person annually, but in actuality, the cost per homeless person is in a range of $35,000 to $150,000 annually. Costs specifically associated with youth homelessness is approximately half of this amount.

We looked at the few studies conducted on the costs of youth homelessness around the country and it appears to range from $15,000 to $20,000 per youth annually. 

Costs of chronic homelessness

For example, in a study on the economic burden of youth experiencing homelessness in Hennepin County (Minneapolis), it estimated that on average youth homelessness imposed a fiscal cost of $17,152 and a social cost of $18,638 per youth annually. As a group, the 1,451 members of the cohort study cost taxpayers an estimated $24,894,610, and cost society an estimated $27,049,551. The largest costs to taxpayers were public expenditures for the juvenile and criminal justice systems and welfare transfer payments to cohort members. Large costs to society included the costs of crime to victims and lost earnings by members.

These economic burden studies give us a relatively good idea how much it costs taxpayers annually if we continue to do little to solve the problem. But trying to ascertain the most accurate costs of youth homelessness requires breaking homelessness into two groups: those who will be homeless for only a few weeks or a couple of months, and those who are “chronically homeless,” meaning they have been without a place to live for more than a year, and have other problems — mental illness or substance abuse or other debilitating damage. It is estimated that the vast majority, about 85%, are considered short-term or temporary homeless. It is the other 15% who are chronically homeless that cost the most.

A conservative approach, and one that is likely more accurate for costs associated with youth homelessness in New Mexico, is the following formula: 

(Total Homeless Youth .15) $17,152 = Cost of Chronic Youth Homelessness

Naomi Smoot Evans (headshot), executive director of Coalition for Juvenile Justice, smiling woman with shoulder-length brown hair, glasses, earrings, patterned scarf, dark suit.

Naomi Smoot Evans

The math is simple. All we need is the estimated number of homeless youths in New Mexico to measure the economic impact. For example, in 2014 when New Mexico was ranked 46th in the U.S. for youth homelessness (today it’s worse), there were an estimated 22,463 homeless youth. This brings the economic burden on New Mexico taxpayers to about $58 million annually. 

Keep in mind this is a conservative estimate accounting only for the costs of chronic youth homelessness. If we cut the costs of the nonchronic homeless by 75% (because their state of homelessness is in the range of a few weeks to a couple of months), the taxpayer costs are estimated at $82 million. By combining the costs for chronic and temporary homelessness, the total costs to New Mexico taxpayers annually is about $140 million.

We understand, of course, this is an approximate guess based on costs derived from an urban city in Minneapolis applied to a location with some unique differences. However, irrespective of the true economic costs of youth homelessness in New Mexico, it will not vary by much. 

Suffice it to say, the cost to New Mexico taxpayers is not a drop in the bucket. When framing the problem and issues, the costs associated with a problem is compounded knowing that there are proven solutions that are cost-effective for which these costs can be considerably reduced. More to the point is that part of the cost savings can be redirected to pay for the proven solutions.

There is a systemic problem when the efforts made to date are not making a good return on taxpayer investment. By questioning why taxpayers are not getting a better return on their investment, the problem is framed using the epidemiology model: First identify the symptoms (high cost and high homelessness) and go from there until the causes are identified.

Steven Teske is the chief judge of the Juvenile Court of Clayton County, Ga., was the national chair of the Coalition For Juvenile Justice and won the 2018 leadership prize from the Juvenile Law Center. He served two terms on the Federal Advisory Committee for Juvenile Justice, is a former member of the Board of Directors of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and has testified before Congress numerous times on juvenile justice reform.

Naomi Smoot Evans is the executive director of the Coalition For Juvenile Justice, where she oversees the organization’s efforts to help states create brighter outcomes for youth. She co-chairs the Act 4 Juvenile Justice Coalition and was instrumental in passage of the 2018 Juvenile Justice Reform Act. 

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Greater Los Angeles Area Low-Income Child/Youth Education, Health and Development Grants

OUR GRANT OPPORTUNITIES: Youth Today’s grant listings are carefully curated for our subscribers working in youth-related industries. Subscribers will find local, state, regional and national grant opportunities.

THIS GRANT’S FOCUS: Child/Youth Development, Education, Low-Income Families, Community, Southern California
Aug. 15, 2020 (Pre-application contact) | Nov. 1, 2020 (Phase 1 Application)

“The Southern California Program seeks to promote the education and healthy development of children and youth, strengthen families and enhance the lives of people in the Greater Los Angeles area through its support of civic and community services, early childhood and pre-collegiate education, and healthcare. Projects that address compelling issues and have the potential to have a significant impact on the target population, organization, region and/or field are encouraged. A special emphasis is placed on projects that focus on children and youth from low-income families and special needs populations.

Preference is given to exemplary institutions and organizations with a history of achievement and effective management, and whose financial condition is strong, as demonstrated by their current audited financial statements prepared in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles. Projects must address significant issues or problems in the areas of arts and culture, civic and community service, early childhood, health care, or pre-collegiate education. Only projects serving communities in Los Angeles County will be considered.”

Funder: The W.M. Keck Foundation
“Organizations must be:

  • Exempt from federal taxation as defined by Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and be designated as:
    1. a public charity (and not a private foundation) as defined by Section 509(a)(1) or 509(a)(2) or 170(b)(1)(A)(I-VI) of the Internal Revenue Code; or
    2. an exempt operating foundation as defined by Section 4940(d)(2).
    3. No grants will be made to private foundations (other than exempt operating foundations) or 509(a)(3) organizations.
  • If the institution is located in the State of California, the organization must also be exempt from California State Franchise or Income Tax under Section 23701(d) of the Revenue and Taxation Code.”

Amount: $100,000 – $500,000

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Pittsburgh Area Nonprofit Support and Relief Grants

OUR GRANT OPPORTUNITIES: Youth Today’s grant listings are carefully curated for our subscribers working in youth-related industries. Subscribers will find local, state, regional and national grant opportunities.

THIS GRANT’S FOCUS: COVID-19, Nonprofit Support, Social Justice, Pittsburgh, Disadvantaged Communities

“The Segal Family Foundation is committed to supporting our non-profit partners through the unforeseen challenges of a global pandemic. Please submit this request with a tangible project that is in direct response to your organization’s immediate and most emergent needs.”

Funder: The Evan and Tracy Segal Family Foundation
“Organizations requesting grant funds must have 501(c)(3) designation in the United States.”
Up to $25,000

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>>> CLICK HERE to see all of Youth Today’s COVID-19 GRANT LISTINGS

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